Disasters That Didn't Happen

In 2005, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) predicted fifty million climate refugees by 2010. We must have missed it. I suppose it ended up the same place as those predictions of increasingly terrible hurricanes. That didn’t happen either. Not to worry, smart people have now moved that refugee crisis to 2020. They kept the 50 million figures, however. Nice round number. Savvier doomsday prophets don’t give exact dates. It makes them look stupid … or maybe not. There still is more money & fame to be earned by predicting disaster than by being sane and logical.

descriptionI hold a personal grudge against Paul R. Ehrlich, the notorious author of the “Population Bomb.” I was still young and stupid when I read his book back in the 1970s. He predicted widespread famines by the 1980s and I believed him. I guess I should thank him. His book and those like it were a kind of vaccination against hysteria.

Did you hear the one about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers in 2035? Seems the IIPC got the math wrong, but people were worried. Some people even said they felt the effects. I like this story from National Geographic, “Dozens of mountain lakes in Nepal and Bhutan are so swollen from melting glaciers that they could burst their seams in the next five years and devastate many Himalayan villages, warns a new report from the United Nations.” This scary paragraph was written in 2002. My math tells me 2002 + 5 years = 2007. "These are the ones we know about," said Surendra Shrestha, Asian regional coordinator of the UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment. "Who knows how many others, elsewhere in the Himalayas and across the world, are in a similar critical state?"

Always good to add a line like that. Who can say it is wrong? There is no reason to believe it, but who knows? Although since it is now going on five years since the critical date and it didn’t happen, maybe now we do know that answer was none.

I worked in a book shop in the 1970s. We had whole shelves groaning with the supposedly fact-based predictions of economic and environmental collapse. Lots of those books choose 2000 as the terrible date. It seemed a good idea. Close enough to be scary, but far enough that they could sell lots of books before it was clear they were wrong. Well, it came and went and despite the terrible threat of Y2K, nothing happened.

IMO, life has become TOO safe and nice. It makes people crazy. Until a generation ago, people actually worried about having enough food to eat. Today, obesity is the biggest threat among the poor. There used to be real dangers of contagious and infectious diseases that could affect whole populations. Today, not so much. We humans are hard wired to worry. That is how our ancestors avoided leopards and lions on the Serengeti plains. They ran first and thought about it later. In the absence of real threats, we think up some fictional ones, like a hypochondriac comes up with symptoms.

I am not saying there are not real challenges, but if whether or not you should drink Coca-Cola from a plastic bottle is among your worries, life is not so bad.

Nothing lasts forever and someday our civilization will fall, but not today, not tomorrow and probably not for a long time. In the meantime, do yourself a favor. Just assume anybody coming at you with an apocalyptic prediction is just nuts. Statistically, you are on solid ground and in the "black swan" case, who cares? May as well be happy until the day it all ends.

Posted by Christine & John at April 21, 2011 12:41 AM
Comment #321992

I love it when people quote science without understanding what they read. In your previous article, you claimed that the article you cited said plastics/BPA is safe. Actually it said that BPA’s at current or below recommended TDI’s (Total Daily intake) was safe. Second, many plastics do not contain BPA’s such as water or soda bottles. Therefore your reference to Coca-Cola in a plastic bottle is meaningless.

But I do agree, in general life is good.

Posted by: Cube at April 21, 2011 1:43 AM
Comment #321993

Isn’t that why they are called predictions? Just wondering.

Posted by: womanmarine at April 21, 2011 5:32 AM
Comment #321994

Fear, the tool of liberals to scare older people, and keep the world in a state of flux. Look where they have us with the rich vs. poor rantings !!

Posted by: Jim at April 21, 2011 7:15 AM
Comment #321995


Reminds me of “Ghost Busters” - back off man, I’m a scientist.

I understand enough about the science involved to make decisions about it. That is the important part. As you know, science doesn’t come to final conclusions, but should give us enough information to make decisions.

With the plastics, it is evidently possible to consume products in these plastics w/o significant danger. To me, in my unscientific way, that means “safe.”

I pity the fools who complicate life so much that they cannot or will not make decisions until they are 100% certain.


That’s right. But people seem to go crazy worrying about these predictions. The other interesting thing is that some predictors can make poor predictions and still get rich and respected. Paul Ehrlich is a good example. He has been wrong about almost everything for more than 40 years, but he still gets speaking and book deals.

As I wrote to Cube, the key is to make decisions with the information available.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 9:10 AM
Comment #321997

C&J If you ask the people of Japan about the 50 million displaced by climate I wonder if they would agree with that or is climate and earthquakes/tsunami to big a stretch?

“I worked in a book shop in the 1970s. We had whole shelves groaning with the supposedly fact-based predictions of economic and environmental collapse. Lots of those books choose 2000 as the terrible date.”

They are still there. You highlight the environmentalist and their predictions but lets face it the survivalist of the far right are in the same boat with their predictions. While we are at it lets not forget the Bible and it’s apocalyptic predictions. Are you suggesting the Christians and the end times prophecy are “nuts”.

Ehrlich wasn’t such a bad guy C&J. The advancing technology of agriculture although not sustainable relieved the problem didn’t it? At least for the time being.

“A few of the great famines of the late 20th century were: the Biafran famine in the 1960s, the disaster in Cambodia in the 1970s, the Ethiopian famine of 1984–85 and the North Korean famine of the 1990s.”


Posted by: j2t2 at April 21, 2011 10:29 AM
Comment #321999

I know I may be opening myself to personal attacks from those on the left, as I have seen how they treat evangelical Christianns, but my personal belief is that Global Warming is bogus. I’ve considered it so for some because of the very reasons you state, but that being said, I am also a Christian and believe the Bible when it comes to apocalyptic events prophesied. There are many weather related events predicted in the Bible for the last days; a period of seven years known as the “Tribulation”. These events come upon mankind as result of God’s judgment, but since mankind, as a whole rejects these judgments as coming from God, it is easy to see mankind blaming the judgments on manmade weather conditions. I‘m not concerned about weather changes, whether they be manmade or from God, but I do find it interesting that as the predictions of GW (the melting of the polar caps and glaciers) fail to come about, the gloom and doom global warming group now claim GW means the cooling of the earth.

I love to watch nature shows on TV, but they always seem to get their GW message included into the documentaries. One of the best is the claim that the population of Polar Bears is decreasing because these bears are losing their ice packs and drowning at sea. It is a known fact that polar bears can remain at sea for long times and swim hundreds of miles from any solid surface. It is also well know that the population of polar bears is not dropping, in fact Alaska is seeking to open up polar bear hunting due to the fact the population has increased.

I am also curios and perhaps you can answer this question; why was the ozone (or lack of) was such a big topic a few years ago, but it is never mentioned anymore? If we were all going to burn up from the sun’s rays because of holes on the ozone, why is this prediction no longer mentioned?

Posted by: Larry at April 21, 2011 10:47 AM
Comment #322000


All those who make such end-of-world predictions are nuts. Of course (a tangential metaphor) even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut. That gives the fear followers and fear mongers enough “evidence” to keep on believing.

Re Christians who await the end of the world - yes they are nuts. So are those right wing guys you mention. But it depends on exactly what they believe. If you take it as a faith that sometime in the undefined future, I have not problem with that.

re the people of Japan - I don’t think we are talking 50 million refugees, and yes,earthquake and tsunami are a stretch. They have nothing to do with climate change.

I worry about the slippery slope of climate change. Some proponents attribute any change to human induced climate change. There have been droughts, floods, earthquakes etc long before humans showed up. There was also significant climate change. 10,000 years ago my home state of Wisconsin was covered by a mile of ice. Now it is warmer.

I believe climate change is happening and that human activity is contributing. But it is easy to take this way too far.

I listened to a good lecture yesterday by a guy from the forest service. He explained that climate change is real but the precise effects are uncertain. We can prepare by producing more robust systems. He pointed out that there is no mitigation w/o adaption and that we can act, we MUST act before we know all the facts.

Re crazy Ehrlich - He was/is a bad guy. A hateful guy. He fell into the old mistake of not understanding dynamism. Beyond that, ALL the famines you mention were caused by political acts. There was not a shortage of food; it was the fault of oppressive and/or chaotic political regimes.

Re sustainable - NOTHING is sustainable if you mean that it will not have to change and adapt. Modern agriculture is indeed sustainable if you mean being able to change with changing conditions and substituting parts that stop working for new innovation.

Returning to the notorious Mr. Ehrlich - he never understood that about sustainability. He projected his current reality into the future. That is why he was so wrong. The same goes for our current fear mongers.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 11:01 AM
Comment #322002

“Modern agriculture is indeed sustainable if you mean being able to change with changing conditions and substituting parts that stop working for new innovation.”

From the wiki link above-
“Beginning in the 20th century, nitrogen fertilizers, new pesticides, desert farming, and other agricultural technologies began to be used to increase food production, in part to combat famine. Between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution influenced agriculture, world grain production increased by 250%. Much of this gain is non-sustainable. Such agricultural technologies temporarily increased crop yields, but as early as 1995, there were signs that they may be contributing to the decline of arable land (e.g. persistence of pesticides leading to soil contamination and decline of area available for farming). Developed nations have shared these technologies with developing nations with a famine problem, but there are ethical limits to pushing such technologies on lesser developed countries. This is often attributed to an association of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides with a lack of sustainability.”

Then there is water. It seems to me the only thing Ehrlich overlooked was the ability of man to find ways of prolonging the worse. Even now as we see Agricultural land being unsustainable there are people using LED’s to grow crop in vertical farms and such. Yet as population continue to grow one has to wonder when the tipping point is.

I don’t think they are all nuts, C&J. There is a grain of truth in the reasoning behind the predictions that ultimately prove to be outlandish. The overuse of exaggeration and lack of critical thinking skills causes many to see things at a bigger scale than they may be but doesn’t make them nuts. Well most of them anyway.

Climate change? who knows? Certainly not me. The investigation is in it’s infancy. Much evidence leads us to believe it is at least partially caused by population growth and the resulting pollution. I don’t have the background to understand the specifics of the science but I do know that when you leave a car running in a garage and you breathe the air in the garage it results in death.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 21, 2011 11:35 AM
Comment #322004


I always take a wikipedia entry as the last word. Maybe I should go in and correct that Wiki article.

We will constantly adapt our procedures and methods. That is sustainable. Every time the little people like Ehrlich find the end, smarter people find ways to sustain life.

Agricultural land is being restored and improved in the developed world. Do not underestimate human intelligence and innovation.

I don’t know everything about agriculture from first hand experience. I do know something about forestry from that angle. I can tell you with moral certainty that we can grow trees on the same dirt virtually forever. People who work in agriculture tell me the same about their work. I think we are right in the long run.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 11:47 AM
Comment #322006

The Montreal Protocol phased out most of the use of the aerosols which were destroying the ozone layer. Since the Protocol, the Ozone layer has stabilized, although it still has a way to go to full recovery. Humanity narrowly averted a disaster.

When scientists suggested the possible threat of CFC’s to the ozone layer, the head of DuPont called the theory “rubbish,” and actively opposed regulation. As it turned out, the scientists were right, people making money from the status quo were wrong, and humanity dodged a bullet.

Ehrlich was wrong about the timeline, but was he wrong about the underlying problem? Do you think overpopulation is a problem?

The predictions about Global Warming upon hurricane intensity seem to be accurate. Although the Atlantic seasons have been quiet, there have been extremely strong hurricanes in the Pacific over the past few years. Remember, it’s Global Warming, not United States Warming.

Posted by: phx8 at April 21, 2011 12:08 PM
Comment #322009

Excellent post C&J. With a degree in Forestry myself, like you I understand ecosystems and our place in them. And, like you, I consider myself environmentally aware based upon study and personal observation, and not from being a disciple of those who appear to be in it just for the money and fame.

Rachel Carson wrote a number of books in her field of biology with the US Bureau of Fisheries. Then came “Silent Spring”, a book that many contend caused millions of deaths with the subsequent banning of DDT.

Pseudoscience abounds in many scientific disciplines. A good rule of thumb is to simply follow the money to understand the motive.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 12:34 PM
Comment #322014

“I always take a wikipedia entry as the last word. Maybe I should go in and correct that Wiki article.”

You could, but site your sources so we can determine fact from fiction.

“We will constantly adapt our procedures and methods. That is sustainable.”

That is innovation, IMHO C&J. Sustainable is maintaining a certain level of production for a longer length of time. The use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers has increased the level by what 250% (according to the wiki link) but will it continue to maintain that level as the population grows?

” Every time the little people like Ehrlich find the end, smarter people find ways to sustain life.”

You elitist, always attacking the messenger and us little people. ;)

“People who work in agriculture tell me the same about their work. I think we are right in the long run.”

The farmers only have at the most half their fields in production at any one time C&J. Can they continue to produce at the levels we have seen for the foreseeable future? Hopefully they can. If the pesticides and the synthetic fertilizers continue to work that’s great, if not we cannot expect the organic farmers/methods to fill in to the extent the non-organic farmers/methods do now, can we?

The dry land farmers have drought to worry about. The irrigated land farmers have the water table to worry about and they both have the pests they fight off to worry about as they continue to reach for the higher yields. Remember that we are not the only species that is innovative. The pests seem to be able to innovate as well.

Here is a link to the future in farming that may serve to take care of the next wave of innovation in the production of food if you are interested.


Posted by: j2t2 at April 21, 2011 1:52 PM
Comment #322018

Good link j2t2. The ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions and our ingenious innovation is reason enough to expect humanity to be around on this planet for a very long time.

I have been reading a number of articles about Pond Scum (algae) as a major source of energy in our future. As the articles become more numerous with some experimental success, I believe it has merit.


Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 2:24 PM
Comment #322019

Nature doesn’t work on a human timetable. Many folks, having lost faith in what the scientists were saying due to false alarms, went right back to what they were doing right in time to get hit by the Volcano or whatever else they thought they were safe from.

I want our readers to notice something here: the Republicans are always attacking people in these debates. Whether it’s the false “climate-gate” scandal, the continual derision of Al Gore, or the talk of how those concerned with Global Warming are really just sockpuppets for world socialism, the effort is made not to provide a scientifically correct alternative, but to cast doubt upon the currently supported theoreticians and popularizers in order to extend that disregard to what they speak of.

They call it “sound science”, but they seem willing to stick with theories even after their bluffs are called and their claims are debunked.

And isn’t it a bizarre coincidence that their message tends to be the same every time? Keep consuming gasoline, keep pumping that oil, keep mining that coal! Don’t believe those pointy-headed liberal elite socialists!

Folks, nearly every scientific enterprise whose work touches on this subject has told us the threat is real. Over 90% of qualified climate scientists tell us the threat is real. The subtle and not-so-subtle signs of this warming abound. Hell, the oceans are even acidifying as a result of all the CO2 increasing.

And no, these are not conclusions you have to take anybody’s word for. These are reproduceable results, from the raw data. Nobody, it seems, can create a model consistent with the laws of thermodynamics that explains our current climate with anything less than the increase in CO2

Instead, we get a smattering of already debunked explanations, or far out theories like cosmic ray increases. People are still riding the hobby horse of solar insolation, even after folks saw the warmth of the climate and the intensity of solar radiation go in two different directions.

And they tell us, of course, that if we keep on doing the same thing, we have nothing to worry about.

How many times have we heard the same politicians and same groups say the same things, only to have some catastrophic event overwhelm their claims that there is nothing to be afraid of?

When the answer of what we should do doesn’t differ in accordance with the response of events, it’s no answer at all.

We are hardwired to worry, to be attentive. But we are also hardwired, and educated on top of that to be able to handle this complex, often confusing world. It’s taken millenia to understand our effect on climate, but now we understand what influences that humans might have on their environment, the rational thing to do would be to prepare for the possibility. Yes, we could be wrong about this, but we can plan for that, too. We can make this about efficiency, which serves our purposes regardless of whether we’re full of it on Global Warming.

We can make this about taking advantage of a vast, abundant, and for our purposes limitless store of energy, and that will make our limited, increasingly difficult, increasingly more scarce, increasingly more expensive current fuel supply last longer, either way.

Now is a great time to start, even better than any time before in certain ways, because semiconductor design, bio-engineering, and materials science have advanced so far in recent years. If we start later, we start with more expensive fuels, more unstable economics, and the beginnings of climate change weighing against us.

Now is the time to act. Waiting has already cost us quite enough. It’s time to stop asking the buggy whip manufacturers whether it’s right to start using automobiles. It’s time to stop asking oil companies whether it’s time to become less dependent on their product. Common sense tells you that they’ll always have a conflict of interest in telling you the truth.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2011 2:26 PM
Comment #322028

I believe I have read SD’s comments about MMGW about 100 or so times before. Nothing new in this comment.

I can boil down his assessment of MMGW very simply. Science has a theory based upon computer modeling that has been wrong many, many times, but this time, just in case the models are correct, let’s spend huge sums of money to combat a problem that may, or may not, exist.

This same science tells us that no matter how much we spend, if their models are correct, we can’t affect GW much. However, the liberal feels good when chasing dreams with other peoples money.

Pseudoscience did away with DDT and the world suffered in hunger and disease. But, the libs were happy. SD decries plastic, but just the medical benefits of this product alone may one day save his life.

The libs demand $10 per gallon gas and will cheer and applaud when this administrations anti-fossil fuel policies get us there. Never mind the suffering and deprivation it will cause. They will feel good and, after all, isn’t that what most of their policies are about?

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 3:45 PM
Comment #322029


By the standards you set, NOTHING is sustainable, not in the natural world nor in the one influenced by humans.

Living systems are in a state of constant and sometimes discontinuous change. This whole thing with sustainable has become misused. Some people seem to equate sustainable with “natural” or human free. It is not.

Re sustainable agriculture - we can see agriculture that has been sustainable for a long time. We can see that land can be actually IMPROVED. Of course, I suppose improving soil is not sustainable to some people, since it changes the base.

Re sources - Wikipedia is not really a source; it is a compilation. I have indeed made contributions to Wikipedia, as many have. But the more controversial the topic, the less likely you can find “truth”. Take a look at the Wikipedia articles on something like “the Kurds” for example.

Talking re sustainable. I have seen it, walked on it and touched the dirt. As I said, nothing is sustainable, but we have systems that can last a very long time AND they are getting better.

I think that the problem comes in when we try to get too much defined by one thing. Sustainable will mean change.

Re the Dutch - they are precious, aren’t they? They spend billions of live below sea level and now they are figuring out how to grow crops w/o light. Maybe it would be better just to move up hill and get a little more sun. Sustainable agriculture on actual land is a simpler choice. They have produced a possible great system for permanent troglodytes and space traveller, however.


I think over population is a problem. I think too much rain is a problem or too little rain is a problem, or too many oak trees on a particular piece of land is a problem or too many … you get the point.

Ehrlich was wrong in citing it as an existential problem. His projections were just plain wrong. Since the hysteria of his times, we have seen populations in many areas stabilize and even sometimes begin to drop. This is the trend. So it is not just a matter of time. Ehrlich will never be right except in the banal statement that everything ends eventually.


“Nature doesn’t work on a human timetable.” This is one of those statements that sounds profound but is banal (cf above). Nature often works on human timetables. You can plant corn this year and harvest in a couple of months. If you mean that time goes on for a long time, yes. So what.

People havn’t lost faith in science, just false science. Was Paul Ehrlich a “scientist”. No. He was and is a sensationalist and a charlatan, as were all those who made the unscientific claims I mention in the lead post.

“Now is the time to act.” and do what exactly? U.S. carbon emissions reductions in the last couple of years were remarkable. They came from the decline in economic activity as well as efficiency, so I suppose Obama can claim some credit. Meanwhile, by 2020 China will emit more CO2 than the whole world did in 1990. Talk to them, otherwise there is no point in anything.

I have long advocated a tax on carbon. Don’t tell me that
“republicans block it”. Has any Democrat actually ever seriously introduced it or put it up for a vote? No, we get all these feel good idea. Obama tells us to fill our tires. Great. What else do you have for us, Spock?

I have reasonable confidence the science and technology will improve to address this problem.

The challenge with global warming is in the details. How much is natural warming? How much can systems adapt? Also what are some of the benefits of global warming? How can we adapt?

The reason global warming gets so much rhetorical support but so little practical push is precisely because it get bowdlerized by politicians and pundits. Some of the radical environmentalist want to use it like a hair shirt as human penance. Others cover us in absurd trivialities, telling us to keep our tires well inflated.

Firms and individuals react to incentive, such as price. Until we address that, everything else is just posturing and pretense. The international climate folks burn tons of fuel to jet to conference to talk to themselves and about themselves. The auto-erotic international chattering class of self-serving environmentalists gives the whole enterprise the patina of dishonesty and very expensive sleaze. These movable feasts would be funny if they were not so pernicious.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 4:01 PM
Comment #322031

“Good link j2t2.”

Here is the associated press article on the Dutch farmers, Royal.


Posted by: j2t2 at April 21, 2011 4:10 PM
Comment #322033

C&J wrote; “Obama tells us to fill our tires. Great. What else do you have for us, Spock?”

Thank you very much for the best belly laugh I’ve had in days. My wife just can’t stop laughing. I wonder how many understand the “Spock” reference?

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 4:26 PM
Comment #322034
“Nature doesn’t work on a human timetable.” This is one of those statements that sounds profound but is banal (cf above). Nature often works on human timetables. You can plant corn this year and harvest in a couple of months. If you mean that time goes on for a long time, yes. So what.

*Slaps forehead*. That’s not nature working on man’s timetable. Those growing seasons depend on temperature, length of day, and precipitation, often enough. That’s far from nature working on man’s timetable.

I think you’ll find that nature sets the timetable more than we care to admit. Look at what happened with Russia, and its breadbasket. That’s part of what raised food prices. What if that climate becomes the norm? It’s not merely a matter of time, its a matter of place, a matter of climate.

I think your views are shortsighted, supremely confident that because we haven’t catastrophically screwed things up yet, that we are immune from screwing ourselves. I don’t think so. Popularizers and politicians may have distorted things somewhat, but I’ve seen enough evidence that resources issues are a concern around the world to believe that this is a challenge that needs to be taken seriously, and a problem that needs to be prevented to the degree it’s possible.

You’re so concerned about keepingyour political opponents in check that you’re forming what you say and what you do around that opposition, around discrediting and dismissing their ideas, rather than filtering out good from bad and creating a better moderated viewpoint.

Now is the time to act first because we have relative plenty in terms of the energy we use now, and the economic stability that goes with that. We’ll be scrambling less to maintain our way of life if we get ahead of the curve, rather than chase behind it.

Second, we’re dealing with a problem that behaves non-linearly, where the shifts are exponential. They might start slow, just to speed up. If we don’t get ahead of them now, there might not be a point to anything we do when the panic sets in and we realize what’s going on.

Third, I think it is better for the economy to have gradual shifts and gradual adjustments, within reason, rather than ending up acting in desperation when we try to confront the issue later. That goes for either climate change or our energy crisis.

As for your order not to discuss Republicans blocking energy legislation? Sorry, I have to disregard it. Tell me, what are your energy and transportation committee chairs saying nowadays?

Obama had it right when he said we should fill our tires up. That will get better gas mileage, it’s easy, and it makes sense. What fools are we to dismiss good ideas, simply because they’re not these big secrets?

Governments are a big part of the incentive/disincentive structure in any country. In fact, that’s what their job is today. When the government implemented CAFE standards a few decades ago, it helped save billions of barrels of oil. Not every solution can come from goverment, but that fact is not logically equivalent to saying that none can come from government.

As for the Dutch? They’re doing what they do successfully, and they’re doing it in part because they have to. I mean, if they head for higher ground, they’re heading into somebody else’s backyard. You’re not considering that what is rational, easy, and simple when you calculate it in abstract thought isn’t quite so simple or easy in practice.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2011 4:29 PM
Comment #322035

Thanks for the link j2t2. Without spending hours in meditation on the subject, my first impression is favorable.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 4:36 PM
Comment #322036

SD writes; “We’ll be scrambling less to maintain our way of life if we get ahead of the curve, rather than chase behind it.”

My research leads me to believe we are “ahead of the curve” with natural gas and new coal cleaning technology.

Wind and solar don’t have a lock on “new energy”, except in the followers of those who stand to profit most from their development.

Government is quite often sluggish and brain-dead in acting to implement or change policy. A good example is corn ethanol. Even the liberal lemmings now understand the fallacy of that crazy idea. Yet, each year congress extends the subsidy and increases the mandate for its use.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 4:48 PM
Comment #322037


What do you mean by “nature’s timetable”. Are we talking the lifespan of a mayfly, an oak tree or the wearing down of the Appalachian Mountains?

It is a meaningless statement.

What do you think happened to “Russia’s breadbasket” and where do you think “Russia’s breadbasket is located? You know I bet you are thinking of those forest fires last year and the drought. A drought. I guess they never had any droughts before. Re Russia’s breadbasket, I bet you are thinking of Ukraine.

Russia, BTW, suffered a lot from communist mismanagement over most of the 20th Century. Indeed that socialist system was unsustainable and did serious and continuing damage to the country’s agricultural and human potential.

BTW 2 - Brazil is bringing in one of its best harvests for various grains. What if that became the norm?

Re shifts - we have always been dealing with punctuated equilibrium. Read a little more history. We would all like gradual shifts. Sometime we don’t get them.

re Obama and Spock - of course it is good advice. It is just a little stupid for a president to talk re. I know about the tire thing; you probably do too. Obama is telling us the obvious. Maybe he should work on real problems.

CAFE standards didn’t do much, since people drove more. The problem with government fiat is that they do not understand the dynamic system.

Re the Dutch - they are rich and can afford such folly. If you really believe in sea level rises like Al Gore says, even the Dutch cannot stave it off and maybe they should think about investing elsewhere.

This is the thing I find amusing, dumb and hypocritical about liberals. They talk about warming and sea level rise and then they want to rebuild in New Orleans or protect the polders of Holland.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 4:56 PM
Comment #322038

Royal and others

Right. When our lefty friends talk about alternatives, they only mean things that don’t make any money for anybody (i.e. don’t work w/o subsidies). As soon as something is viable and makes a profit for somebody, they call it exploitative.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 5:01 PM
Comment #322039

Royal Flush-
You’re laughing at Obama about an approach to increasing fuel efficiency that actually works. That’s a pretty stupid thing to knock somebody about. Keeping your car in good shape and keeping your tires properly inflated is a proven method of reducing your fuel consumption.

Why knock it? Why celebrate such a lack of wisdom? A society that enshrines foolishness as a virtue embraces its own decline.

I believe I have read SD’s comments about MMGW about 100 or so times before. Nothing new in this comment.

I can boil down his assessment of MMGW very simply. Science has a theory based upon computer modeling that has been wrong many, many times, but this time, just in case the models are correct, let’s spend huge sums of money to combat a problem that may, or may not, exist.

Well, when the science changes on the subject, I’ll change what I say about it then.

Let me boil down what I’m saying here for myself, since you can’t seem to do the job right: Global Warming was considered plausible long before there were the computer models to work out its implications. CO2’s ability to warm an atmosphere at trace levels was observed, as was it’s ability to create a blast furnace when its concentration was much higher, as was the case on Venus. Make no mistake: the greenhouse effect is an observed reality, not just a ghost in the machine of theory.

The question is how fast. It used to be thought that it would take thousands of years for the atmosphere to warm up, on account of CO2. The controversy is not that CO2 can warm up an atmosphere, it’s how fast, and in what way.

The thinking used to be that climate change took place over thousands of years or a number of centuries, that we would gradually adapt, that the climate change would be a positive. Well, that was before they looked at the actual climate record, before they got the computing power necessary to understand just how sensitive the climate was to small changes.

Climate change is a reality. The Cave of Swimmers, out in the middle of one of the driest parts of the Sahara desert is an indication of that. And that climate change, caused by a few degrees worth of cooling in temperatures over certain areas, took place within a couple of centuries.

The models are constantly checked and compared to reality, not simply run and trusted as some divine oracle. They reflect a change in our understanding of how climate really changes. Some have a political problem with that, but that political problem won’t change whether its wrong or not.

What it will change is whether we’re prepared to confront the problem.

On the subject of DDT, DDT was actually toxic. DDT was also replaced by other, less problematic pesticides, and we produce more food in all kinds of places than we used to.

I don’t decry plastic, but the ingredients and chemicals that go into it can be harmful. I’m advising care and regulatory vigilance, not hatred. But since hatred sounds better when you’re trying to paint me as an extremist, I guess you go with that.

As for 10 dollar a gallon gas? That’s not what I want. What I want the price of gas to be is irrelevant, a thing of the past, something that collectors of old automobiles worry about, rather than the average consumer. I want us off the gasoline addiction, and I’d prefer that we get a good start on this long before gas prices reach such extremes.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2011 5:03 PM
Comment #322040

SD said, “I want our readers to notice something here: the Republicans are always attacking people in these debates. Whether it’s the false “climate-gate” scandal, the continual derision of Al Gore, or the talk of how those concerned with Global Warming are really just sockpuppets for world socialism, the effort is made not to provide a scientifically correct alternative, but to cast doubt upon the currently supported theoreticians and popularizers in order to extend that disregard to what they speak of.”

The real question is why do conservatives think this way and are they justified in doing so?

1.Liberal democrats hold to the Keynesian economic theory which is against Capitalism:

“Keynesian economic theory, which in a nutshell is that governments need to print and spend their way out of economic downturns has been proven to be a failure time and again and has been thoroughly debunked by Austrian Economists like von Mises, Rothbard, Hayek and Hazlitt, among others.”


2.Liberal democrats support socialism:

“Definition of SOCIALISM
1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done


3.Liberal democrats support The Cloward/Piven Strategy of Economic Recovery:

“Using borrowed money for a band-aid bailout of the economy should seem backwards to most people. However, it likely is a planned strategy to promote radical change. Those naively believing that President Obama is simply rewarding his far-left base, and will then move to the political center, must wise up.
The assumption that Obama will need the nation to prosper in order to protect the 2010 mid-term election incorrectly assumes that he esteems free market capitalism. He does not. Rather than win through superior ideas and policies, the Democrat plan for success in the mid-term elections is to win by destroying political opposition.”

“The Cloward/Piven Strategy is named after Columbia University sociologists Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven. Their goal is to overthrow capitalism by overwhelming the government bureaucracy with entitlement demands. The created crisis provides the impetus to bring about radical political change.”


4.Liberal democrats and Obama adhere to the Saul Alinksy Rules for Radicals method of politics :

“which teaches the dark art of destroying political adversaries. However, that text reveals only one front in the radical left’s war against America. The Cloward/Piven Strategy is another method employed by the radical Left to create and manage crisis. This strategy explains Rahm Emanuel’s ominous statement, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

All of these things that liberals cling so tenaciously too are the enemies of America and of capitalism. And you wonder why we are skeptical of what the liberal democrats do?

All of the goals of the left do two things; destroys capitalism, and re-distribution of wealth. Everything obama does is for the purpose of re-distributing wealth. I heard just a few minutes ago that of the stimulus money set aside for green projects, well over 50% has gone to foreign nations. So how do you think we should feel Mr. Daugherty?

Posted by: 1776 at April 21, 2011 5:11 PM
Comment #322041

It is not that predictions are made or that they are proven to be wrong.

It is that predictions are often clung to even when they have been proven to be wrong.

Voodoo economics, trade agreements, and deregulation of the market will create the greatest economic boom in U.S. history and prosperity for all.

“The auto-erotic international chattering class of self-serving environmentalists”…. has it’s counterpart on the right, and what is true of one is also true of the other.

Posted by: jlw at April 21, 2011 5:16 PM
Comment #322042

Obama also told us to get tune ups for our cars. I suppose he forgot that cars are now computer controlled and the only thing you can change is spark plugs every 100,000 miles. Good call CiC…

Posted by: Mike at April 21, 2011 5:21 PM
Comment #322043

You’re really working hard to distort what I’m saying, aren’t you?

Growing seasons are economically important, since they determine what can be grown, what can survive, how much in the way of crops you can grow. That’s not determined by human beings, that’s determined by climate and the seasons.

Despite our best efforts, for example, we’ve found that judgment and other mental and physiological attributes of human beings go down for them late at night, or when they haven’t had enough sleep. Nature’s timetable again. We have some control over our sleep cycles and other things, but not necessarily full control over our biological reaction to it.

Nature can absorb and process a certain amount of carbon at at time. Below that amount, what we might add will be absorbed, and climate will remain the same. Above that level, though, CO2 accumulates, and climate changes accordingly. Nature’s timetable for processing different pollutants overrules man’s much of the time.

You called Ehrlich over his misunderstanding of dynamism, but what else is dynamism but change over time? While you insist that man’s time table for such changes will dominate, I insist that nature has the last word on that, and we can only move up or change that if we understand nature well enough to take advantage of that, and then can implement that on the right scale.

Otherwise, our easiest and best adaptation is to avoid provoking the unwanted dynamics, to avoid pushing nature past its limits to absorb our impact, our footprint on the ecosystems.

Every process works over time, and not necessary in our kind of clockwork sort of predictable way.

In response to your comment on New Orleans and Holland… Well, you complained at one point that we were talking about disruptive migrations due to global warming… but wait a minute! We’re talking a nation of 16.85 million people, in a country roughly twice the size of New Jersey, which means it’s already densely populated.

There isn’t necessarily room to vacate the at risk places.

And right now, we have to consider the economic reality that the Netherlands constitutes the mouth of the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Schelde. Like New Orleans, it’s strategically located to take advantage of this geographical fact.

But you say, just pull up stakes and move! Well, I wonder what Belgium and Germany would have to say about that. The Netherlands is literally the low country. You dont’ do the dilemmas of actually moving cities, industrial resournces, populations, and all the other infrastructural necessities justice. You let your political model of things over simplify the practical issues of such broad social engineering.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2011 5:23 PM
Comment #322044

Here is your process, your argument, as far as I can gather:

1) You call an economic school of thought socialism.

2) You call a political party socialist.

3) You assign a particular strategy to Democrats, and say they’re using this on the economy with the express purpose of destroying capitalism.

4) You claim that Democrats are aiming to use radical political tactics to destroy the country in these respects.

Here’s what I think:

1) America won the Cold War and prospered under a mostly Keynesian system of economic policies

2) Your provided definition of Socialism is so vague, I bet even Republicans could fall under it.

3) Obama has very much moved to the center, if he ever left it in the first place. Why else is he talking up debt reduction, making all these compromises that cost him among the most liberal of Democrats? Your concern is that he will successfully occupy the center, rather than let the Republicans have it for free.

4) While we sit her, your fellow Tea Partiers are using the potential for government shutdowns and Sovereign defaults to extort changes in the budget from Democrats.

If that isn’t exploiting a crisis, I don’t know what is. Only instead of taking advantage of things to show people the benefit of good policies, your people will take advantage of it to push policies they didn’t want in the first place.

I’m not going to take lessons in political integrity from your side here.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2011 5:37 PM
Comment #322045


Are you talking about Reagan policies? If so, we got twenty-five very good years. No bad.


I don’t think you understand what you are saying. You think that man and nature are separate. They are not. We are part of that dynamism. And we have done okay.

You also seem to want to see a clear dichotomy between government (which you think is good) and business (which you think is bad). In fact, they move into each other.

We know that really big government control (i.e. Soviets, Nazis etc) is bad for everybody. The opposite of this is not NO government. The opposite system is a market economy.

Re moving - sometimes there is no choice, at least no logical choice. If global warming will produce results like Al Gore says, there is no choice for those unfortunate people. It doesn’t mean everybody needs to move at once, but it is pretty stupid to make big investments in below sea level places, don’t you think?

Take the New Orleans example. The whole place is NOT under sea level. Some parts are okay. But areas like the 9th warn are under sea level and should be allowed to become forests and marshes again.

Cities are not forever. If you visit the Mediterranean, you will see lots of lost cities, some were once “indispensable.”

So the real question is do you believe what you say. If you do, you cannot support rebuilding in below sea level places like New Orleans, nor can you support government subsidized flood insurance, at least not if you want to avoid those terrible changes you talk about.

You like to point to problems but avoid actual solutions. It is a lefty characteristics, sorry to say.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 5:39 PM
Comment #322049

I wonder if SD would even hazzard a guess at the dollar cost of addressing MMGW to achieve some level that he believes appropriate. Keep in mind the following;

1) Whatever is recommended for the US, must be implemented worldwide or else…why bother?

2) What is the appropriate level of Co2?

3) From where will the money come to pay for the scheme?

4) What timeline for accomplishment is reasonable?

5) Is it cost effective?

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 6:00 PM
Comment #322050

1) It was nice of 1776 to mention that the liberals are trying to use Keynesian economics to get us out of the mess that Bush League economics got us into.

2) If Obama were to socialize the oil companies, we would have unlimited drilling. There would be only one oil company, one car company, no fast food companies, no food on the store shelves, no churches, but everyone would have an I-Phone.

Our problem is not that the government owns the means of production, our problem is that the means of production owns the government.

3) “overthrow capitalism by overwhelming the government bureaucracy with entitlement demands.

Who or what is the government trying to overwhelm with defense spending? Total expenditures for defense exceed a $trillion per year.

4) The right wing reactionaries definition of radical left: everyone to the left of the reactionary right.

Posted by: jlw at April 21, 2011 6:06 PM
Comment #322054

1) Whatever is recommended for the US, must be implemented worldwide or else…why bother?

Good point. That can happen if we stop doing business with a country that doesn’t have strict environmental laws. Although, since we’re too addicted to our dollar store crap, it will never happen.

Posted by: Spinny Liberal at April 21, 2011 6:18 PM
Comment #322055


So, we can trade with Norway, maybe. We have to give up on China for sure, most of Africa and Latin America … I know that lots of countries talk a good game, but they don’t do it.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 6:26 PM
Comment #322056

I have said nothing of the sort. Man and nature are not separate. Man’s intentions and what intentions nature allows to prosper are what can be separate, if man doesn’t watch out.

Market economies are no substitute for government. Like any part of society, they can govern themselves, but like any part of society, their must be law for their to be order. The question is what shape it takes.

I don’t think business is bad, by the way. But I think they can be more powerful about getting their way, even when it harms people, and I think that must be counterbalanced with government’s help. I believe that businesses do what they can to protect our interests, and if we’re not vigilant, we might lose out on our own interests, as individuals, and as a nation.

As for your big plans to move people? Efforts of that size require high level coordination, almost by default. There are too many toes to step on, too many disputes to resolve, for it to be otherwise. If you want to get people out of the 9th ward, and move them elsewhere, there is a hell of a lot you’re going to have to do, and a whole lot of people you’ll have to get agreement with and cooperation from.

Unfortunately, doing things that way is just not your party’s style. And really, who wants to leave home, to give up on their community? Cities are not forever, but if you don’t watch out, the civilization they’re based upon won’t be around long after their fall. The question is whether you deal with the crucial issues facing your society and civilization, or whether you just blindly push an agenda, without working out the consequences.

The Romans blindly pushed a certain kind of farming, and ended up silting up their harbors. That brought an end to the useful life of many of their famous port cities. In the Midwest, more recently, we pushed people to move out west and set up farms, but their poor farming methods stripped thousands of years of topsoil, and helped lead to the dustbowl. The migrations that cause still echo in our demographics today.

Nothing is simple with changing a society on purpose. In some cases, its best just to let society come to its own conclusions. In other cases, though, the principle at work is simple enough that government’s authority is a useful way of cutting the Gordian not, resolving the issue so people can move forward.

You say I avoid dealing with the issue. I don’t. I just suggest that if you move people, you have to have a place to move them to. If you move things like port facilities, you have to have something sensible to replace them with tha does the same job. You have to reroute infrastructure, manage a difficult process of eminent domain takings in a fair and judicious manner, and manage this all without ticking off the locals so bad they revolt.

You’re talking the principle, I’m talking the means and the challenges regarding carrying that principle out. Maybe we should move people out of the 9th Ward, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it will be easy or simple.

Royal Flush-
1)You can reverse that rather easily. If the US, the biggest, or at least one of the biggest CO2 emitters won’t cut back, why should anybody else?

The first step is making it known that on good faith, we’re going to do this. We can’t be asking others to take on the burdens and excusing ourselves from it.

But that’s what a treaty is for, isn’t it? Push for a simultaneous, mutual system of reductions, rather than use the possibility of others avoiding cuts to shoot down climate legislation.

2) A figure I’ve heard that most are trying for is 80% reductions by 2050. (around 40 years) This train won’t stop quickly, but I think the techonology is manageable. In fact, I think the longer we keep at it, the better.

3) A combination of taxes and private investment, preferably using the first to catalyze the second, and using government policy to keep the second a priority for businesses trying to keep compliance.

4)I guess the 2050 timeline is reasonable

5) The figure on the costs of doing nothing are about 20 trillion dollars. The cost of doing something is much less.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2011 6:26 PM
Comment #322059

Spinny Liberal gets an A+ for his observations…it will never happen.

What will happen, if the MMGW crowd has it way, is for the US to embark on this misadventure alone (or with a few others) and spend huge sums of borrowed or inflation-causing printed money, inflict untold pain and misery on our citizens, ensure a new class of billionaires (who in time will be hated also), and fizzle out just about the time our entire economy collapses.

The dems and libs are fond of reminding us that a mere few billion cut from spending is catastrophic in one breath, and in the next breath, tell us we can afford trillions to combat MMGW which is, even if proven true in some distant future time, beyond our mortal ability to combat.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 6:36 PM
Comment #322060

C&J - Japan is a keeper. They practice what they preach. Except for the whole nuclear meltdown thing, but I don’t think they planned for their backup generators to be washed away.

Royal Flush - “her” I’m a chick. ;-)

Posted by: Spinny Liberal at April 21, 2011 6:41 PM
Comment #322061


Be careful with personification. Nature doesn’t “allow” anything. Every human act creates consequences, some negative some positive. But nature doesn’t have a personality or rules will be enforced with punishment.

If we wiped out all the panda bears tomorrow, there would be no negative ecological effect, for example.

Let me be clear about market economies - I know I have told you this before. A market economy requires government. There can be no market economy w/o government to enforce rule of law, protect contracts etc.

In fact, a market economy is a lot like nature. Government can act, but each act has consequences, sometimes bad sometimes good.

How to move people out of the 9th ward. Simple. Insurance and government can offer to buy out. Anybody who wants to stay can do so, w/o any subsidized insurance. The government can also cease any large scale building projects in the area. In short, if government does nothing - on purpose - the people will clear out. Any that still choose to live there can suffer the consequences.

Re the Romans - their history is long and they did various things. OF course, they were not up to our level of technology and understanding. Most of the “lost” Romans cities, however, went out of existence after Romans were replaced by less able barbarians, Germans, Arabs etc.

RE moving (again) Port facilities are above sea level. They are constantly being renewed and rebuilt. They can be adapted. Re moving people - we have lots of places they can go. Americans move a lot in general. The government doesn’t need to plan this.

re the dust bowl - check into the history. It happened with the encouragement of government programs. Government policy pushed people into these marginal lands. It seemed like a good idea.

We learned from the dust bowl. Today we do a better job. Some of these places are depopulated, since they were over farmed. A lot of the dust bowl is more productive than ever. Conservation is not a one way street. Some things get worse; others improve.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 6:41 PM
Comment #322064

SD writes, referring to relocation of populations; “I’m talking the means and the challenges regarding carrying that principle out.”

Well, if the dire predictions of sea level increases promoted by the MMGW crowd are to be believed, which SD says he does, all the problems SD addressed as monolithic with population relocation now in New Orleans and elsewhere, not tomorrow, must be horrendous.

It seems to me that if SD is correct, why fiddle-fart around with a global consensus which may, or may not ever occur, and even if it does, will be of insignificant value to our sea-side dwellers in peril.

SD and others, using the usual MMGW scaremonger comments, should begin immediately to raise funds for relocation of US cities. One can’t stop the sea from rising so the cities must be moved…and now.

I would really like to hear the national discussion on that topic. If SD truly believes what he writes about MMGW, he should be in the vanguard of that movement and begin phoning the WH and his congress-persons to urge them to add moving American cities in danger to their platform for the 2012 election. That would be heroic.

SD estimates the cost of “doing nothing” to be around $20 trillion. For that kind of money, we can move a lot of real estate and relocate a bunch of folks. Just imagine the votes that kind of “pork” could buy. Hell…I’ll buy some price-depressed imperiled land in Louisiana to get in on that boondoggle.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 7:10 PM
Comment #322065

Gender correction noted Spinny Liberal. Thanks

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 7:12 PM
Comment #322069


Re your answer to Royal re CO2 - the U.S. has but back, a lot since 2006. Beyond, China is now by far the world’s biggest emitter of CO2. They passed us three years ago and are still going. No country has ever emitted as much Co2 in in any year as China does now.By 2020, China alone will emit more CO2 than the whole world did in 1990.

China also emits lots of methane and black soot, which are also powerful GHGs.

They may have gotten a late start, but they are moving fast. I have not done the math, but at the rate of growth, it won’t take long for China to become the biggest emitter of all time, i.e. emitting more total GHG than the U.S. did since 1776. And you know, that wonderful Kyoto treaty lets China, India and all those other big time emitters off the hook.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 7:30 PM
Comment #322070

I forgot to thank Mr. Daugherty for his direct answers to my questions. It was refreshing and appreciated.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 7:31 PM
Comment #322071

=) @ Royal Flush

Posted by: Spinny Liberal at April 21, 2011 7:41 PM
Comment #322073

And you know, that wonderful Kyoto treaty lets China, India and all those other big time emitters off the hook.

Posted by: C&J at April 21, 2011 07:30 PM

Thanks for the reminder. Even if we cut our CO2 emissions to zero it would be for nothing unless others followed suit, which they will not. Just as we have foolishly assumed the role of the world’s policeman, at great cost in blood and treasure, some believe we can lead China and India in CO2 reform by example.

To believe any such thing is an exercise in magical thinking. To remain in control in China the communists must promote ever more growth and consumption. They are sitting on a powder keg and any slowdown in their economy will light the fuse. India is in much the same position as China but for some slightly different reasons.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 21, 2011 7:43 PM
Comment #322083

Royal Flush-
I drive a Hybrid. By your logic, I should be perfectly miserable. I spent 24 dollars, and got my gas guage up to 3/4. At an average of 41 miles a gallon, I will be able to get about 260 miles off that. When gas prices were lower, I could spend that much and get a full tank.

My philosophy isn’t so hoity-toity. I really want to live as much of the life I’m used to living as I can. I don’t care much for the approach of waiting for things to go badly wrong to get focused on energy, or going back to the same energy source whose scarcity puts you in your current bind to solve the problem at hand.

The Republicans are trying to kick the problem down the road once again, trying to convince people that its in our interest to keep attempting the same things, and expect different results.

America’s changed before, modernized before, and people were scared of it then, and are scared of it now.

We’ve gotten over such fear before, and we’ll get over it again.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2011 11:53 PM
Comment #322084

You mean like when the dems kick the problems of entitlements down the road, and “it’s okay”, “no problem”? SS is solvent, Medicare??? What problem?

Posted by: Mike at April 22, 2011 12:20 AM
Comment #322090


We bought a hybrid in 2005. We don’t drive it much, since we take the Metro to work or I ride my bike. So let’s trade virtue.

But what you drive matters than how much you drive and your driving habits. You get 41 miles to the gallon. Maybe somebody with a bigger car gets 20 mpg, but almost never drives.

Ecological virtue has become a kind of conspicuous consumption good.

NPR – Marketplace had an interesting article on conspicuous”>http://freakonomicsradio.com/conspicuous-conservation-just-in-time-for-earth-day.html”>conspicuous conservation. They explain that some people use their conservation as a form of showing off, much as Thorstein Veblen explained the “Leisured classes” did with their wasteful consumption habits.

For example, there are different sorts of hybrids. Some, like Honda Civics,look like their ordinary cars, whereas Toyota Prius has a distinctive look. In places where people rich people like to show off their environmental boda-fides, the premium to look green can be worth as much as $7000.

But the other dynamic is the problem of compensation. When people drive cars that get better mileage, they are tempted to drive more miles. That is why CAFÉ standards have so little lasting effect. We drive more miles when it is cheaper to drive more miles.

Posted by: C&J at April 22, 2011 8:40 AM
Comment #322094

Well of course C&J are correct. I drive my full size Lincoln, getting 24MPG highway, as I want the comfort and safety it provides. For short trips we have a 1999 Kia standard transmission, getting 33 MPG highway.

I built my home myself and spent the extra money on super insulation so I can “heat it with a candle and cool it with an ice cube”.

There are 100’s of ways we can reduce our energy usage. While some purchase gas-sipping automobiles to be energy misers on the road, they may be energy guzzlers elsewhere in their life.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 22, 2011 1:27 PM
Comment #322107

Raise the CAFE standards to 60 mpg and see if that makes a difference in consumption.

Most people agree that something should be done about MMGW, it is the personal sacrifice that is the hangup.

I remember when the U.S. took the lead in preventing something and most of the world followed suit. It was called the Cold War. So, we can call this the New Cold War or Cold War Two.

A few years back we were bragging about being the only super power, the leader of the world. Was that just meaningless rhetoric? Perhaps the other countries of the world feel they are free to do as they please as long as the U.S. refuses to lead on this subject.

Posted by: jlw at April 22, 2011 4:17 PM
Comment #322110

jlw writes; “Most people agree that something should be done about MMGW, it is the personal sacrifice that is the hangup.”

I am not convinced that “most people agree” on anything unless and until they understand what’s involved and the cost to them. So, in that respect you are correct. Hardly any people see MMGW as our paramount problem and ask why they should sacrifice when other problems loom large on the immediate horizon.

If the planet is in peril from MMGW, and people believed it, they would demand that the UN address the issue by calling world leaders together to find a solution.

There is no urgency because there is no perceived threat and those promoting action merely wish to use the issue for personal and political reasons.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 22, 2011 4:44 PM
Comment #322111

“re the dust bowl - check into the history. It happened with the encouragement of government programs. Government policy pushed people into these marginal lands. It seemed like a good idea.”

Really C&J? What specific government programs were responsible for the dust bowl.It seems to me there was a lack of government action prior to the drought in the ‘30’s.

The droughts and over farming were the cause of the dust bowl. Lack of covered fields, lack of proper soil conservation techniques were the reasons the dust bowl was so bad. Certainly you are not suggesting the government caused the droughts are you? Population growth, WWI (and the associated higher food prices) and immigration moved people into farming in the area of the dust bowl.


Posted by: j2t2 at April 22, 2011 4:45 PM
Comment #322114


The government Homestead Act, generally a good idea, specified the same amount of land no matter what the environment. It encouraged cropping in places that would have been better left to grazing.

Government programs were designed to settle these regions.

Let me be clear. I am not blaming government. I would simply say that people make choices based on conditions as they think exist. Government is part of this.

Farming in what became the dust bowl did indeed create a problem. The 1920s were an unusually wet period followed by a hot and dry period. The natural cover would have done okay with these cycles, which had been going on for 10,000 years.

Government soil programs are good. In fact, my formulation of government goes something like this. The government was indeed too small in 1929 and some of the programs, especially those dealing with conservation were needed. But like the difference between a life-saving medicine and a poison is the dosage, government grew too big and intrusive. In the 1960-1970s there was a shift in philosophy. The New Deal government built roads & dams. It planted trees and encouraged infrastructure. The Great Society government tried to establish equality of results and take care of people. There is a big difference between setting up conditions whereby people can prosper and try to get people to prosper directly.

Posted by: C&J at April 22, 2011 5:11 PM
Comment #322115


BTW - The dust bowl was probably the greatest ecological disaster in American history. It qualifies as a disaster that DID happen. However, we recovered from it. Nature is resilient and so is the United States of America.

Posted by: C&J at April 22, 2011 5:13 PM
Comment #322119

Royal, I was thinking of your Lincoln, SUV’s, 300 horses, etc. I was thinking of the careless way in which we consume electricity in our homes, etc. Some of us are thrifty, I so by necessity, most of us don’t think that much about thrift or conservation. That is why Carters plea to turn down the thermostat wasn’t well received.

Driving a Lincoln is safer than driving a Escort, but driving on our highways isn’t safe, no matter what you are in.

C&J, government policies played a key role in creating the agribusiness of today.

Rosa multiflora.

Posted by: jlw at April 22, 2011 5:54 PM
Comment #322120


I fight with the multiflora rose every year. It is a pain in the rear, but we can control it. Another gift from government is kudzu. There are mistakes and benefits.

American agribusiness is a great thing, one of the aspects of America I am most proud of. Government policy helped.

Posted by: C&J at April 22, 2011 6:07 PM
Comment #322122

jlw writes; “Driving a Lincoln is safer than driving a Escort, but driving on our highways isn’t safe, no matter what you are in.”

Well…that may be true but I’ve been driving for 54 years and I do believe our highways and byways, for the most part, are safer than yesteryear.

We had no Interstate Highways when I was a young driver and a 4 lane highway was rare. Roads today have much better striping and shoulders. Many cities have median strips on busy thoroughfares and that certainly helps prevent head-on collisions. Road signage is much better today and we have considerable advance warning with these signs. Traffic lights are everywhere now as compared to my youth in small town Wisconsin. The nearest city with a traffic light was 40 miles.

I have learned, over the years, that the best safety measure I can employ is located right in my head. It’s called using ones brain to drive defensively. And, with seat belts, air bags, and safety glass we are much safer in the car cabin than ever before. And, yes…I will give government much of the credit for all the improvements.

I have watched videos of actual planned head-on car crashes with, I believe it was a new Toyota, and a 50’s Chevy. The Chevy outweighed the Toyota by over a thousand pounds. The test revealed that the driver of the Toyota would have some broken bones while the Chevy driver would be dead.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 22, 2011 6:53 PM
Comment #322125

Royal & jlw

American highways are safer than ever. Traffic deaths are down to levels not seen since the Truman administration, despite billions more miles driven.

We did well with this. It is a triumph of American planning.

Posted by: C&J at April 22, 2011 7:01 PM
Comment #322133

We didn’t kick the can down the road. We already built in reforms the CBO says will add nine years to Medicare’s solvency to the Affordable Care Act.

Some demands going to be inflexible. If you have to go a certain distance every day, you’re going to pay for the gas necessary to get there. The question might be whether people take trips they might otherwise not take. The answer is yes.

But there’s a certain limit to how much people will travel. There will be some extra travel, but at some point, if the energy consumption is cut enough, they really can’t move enough to increase the consumption.

CAFE Standards still saved us energy. I mean, if we hadn’t put those standards in, we would have still driven the miles on the old inefficient vehicles when the economy got better. We would have burned more fuel.

It’s fuel prices and economic activity that drive consumption. What a lack of affordable fuel does is basically inhibit the activity people would otherwise engage in.

You think it’s unimportant. I’d say unless you want to repeat the experience of stagflation, you’d better consider it important. It’s not a matter of the shortage teaching us some kind of virtue. What it’s doing is limiting economic activity that we would otherwise do.

If your aim is to improve the economy over the long term, improving fuel efficiency is a must. Improving that lowers the cost of just about everything else in the market, encourages economic activity elsewhere.

As for whether people are ostentatious about it? If people want to show how efficient they are as a way of scoring points with their rich friends, I’d say more power to them, the incentives are pointed in the right direction. It’s certainly better than folks buying themselves hummers and whatnot to show off their wealth. All I ask is that they be sincere. All I hope is that they are well-advised and well learned. Those folks are adults, and its not my job to put them in their place.

If they want to compete to be more efficient, they have my blessing. I don’t mind if people are obnoxious about doing the right thing. I’ll get over their obnoxiousness easier than the consequences of their inefficiency.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 22, 2011 7:37 PM
Comment #322138

SD wrote; “What a lack of affordable fuel does is basically inhibit the activity people would otherwise engage in.”

True statement. And, it could be reworded to read…What overspending by government does is basically inhibit the activity people would otherwise engage in.

Posted by: Royal Flush at April 22, 2011 7:44 PM
Comment #322139


People have a lot of choices in how much they drive. Even in the short run, they can make fewer trips; some people can telework or use public transportation, or they can car pool.

You think of people are helpless clay in the hands of either big government or big business. I know we all have choices.

If you want to get into hypothetical, if we still drove the same number of miles as we did in 1973, we wouldn’t need to import much or any oil. But we drive more. One reason we drive more is because the cost per mile dropped.

The economy is interactive. When government takes some action, such as CAFE standards, people adjust to the new reality. If your goal is to use less oil, you can use price. CAFE doesn’t do it.

We all behave that way and it makes sense. When something we want costs less, we use more of it.

Re buying the Prius - it depends on how much you drive. There is nothing intrinsically good about owning a Prius. All that counts is how much gas you use. A Prius driver who puts on 100 miles a week is worse for the environment than a SUV owner who only drives 20.

BTW - in all fairness - I own a hybrid and I ride my bike a lot, so I use very little gas. But a couple weeks ago I bought a Toyota RAV4, since my little car will not work on the roads where I am going this summer and I need the 4wd. A RAV4 gets 28 miles to the gallon. It is not really that bad. It is around 70%. So that would mean if you drive your hybrid 100 miles a week and I drive my new SUV 50 miles, I am still doing better.

Posted by: C&J at April 22, 2011 7:58 PM
Comment #322141

The Homestead Act is a bit of a stretch IMHO,to use to blame the government for the dust bowl. But perhaps we should save this for another time.

C&J, Most of the excess of the great society was done way with by Nixon. Most of the rest has been done away with or modified as time has passed. Medicare remains and IMHO doesn’t fit the “equality of results and take care of people.” description you have given it. I think Medicare/Medicaid is an essential part of the government and rates should be raised to pay for the program.

“There is a big difference between setting up conditions whereby people can prosper and try to get people to prosper directly.”

Sure is but why would one think the essential job of government is to set up conditions for people to prosper? It seems we have walked down the street of being set up by the best government money can buy for a bit to long this time around. It has left the majority of us bailing out the uber-wealthy time and again.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 22, 2011 10:01 PM
Comment #322142


IMO Nixon consolidated the Great Society, much like Clinton consolidated the Reagan Revolution. The talk and the ostensible intentions mean less than what happens. Nixon fossilized affirmative action, for example. The various welfare programs got dug in. Nixon also believed in regulation. Remember his price controls?

Nixon also said, “Tory men and liberal policies are what have changed the world.” There is some doubt about what he meant, but whether or not it was his intention, the plaque of the Great Society continued to build up on American arteries throughout the 1970s.

Re building prosperity v creating conditions for prosperity, a government that stayed with the conditions of prosperity wouldn’t be bailing out the wealthy.

re medicare and medicaid - I see this as moving beyond the narrow confines of government or not. We really have to move into the bioethics realm. How much health care should we give out? If it costs $1 million to save a premature baby that will never lead a normal life or keep a 90 year old man alive another month, maybe we should just say no.

Re homestead - government policy was to settle the plains with sod-busters. It was not a bad plan and probably saved the middle of the U.S. from coming to resemble places like Argentina. But it turned out to have a big down side. Yet, looking at it from 2011, the settling of the prairies was more positive than negative. It was a successful public-private partnership.

Posted by: C&J at April 22, 2011 10:53 PM
Comment #322147

“How much health care should we give out? If it costs $1 million to save a premature baby that will never lead a normal life or keep a 90 year old man alive another month, maybe we should just say no.”

And allow the Palins of the world to shout “Death Panels” as reasonong to get rid of the Medicare/Medicaid system? Having a grandson that was considered a preemie that would never lead a normal life and watch him grow and lead a normal life I would say we need to be careful about disasters that didn’t happen. The 90 year old as well as the 80 and 70 year old should know when it is time and despite the best intentions of the family should be allowed to go in dignity. The governor of Colorado back in the 70’s& 80’s, Dick Lamm advocated the same for years, he was left with the nickname Gov. Gloom. He was and is right of course, just like Carter was in his time.

“We’ve got a duty to die and get out of the way with all of our machines and artificial hearts and everything else like that and let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life.”
Richard Lamm

BTW he was a gift from Wisconsin to the state of Colorado. We sent Scott Walker in return, years later,sorry Wisconsin.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 23, 2011 10:34 AM
Comment #322155


It is a hard issue, easy to demagogue. There are also legitimate moral differences. Some people believe in the sanctity of all life and will keep alive someone who I would allow to die. Some people make a fetish of choice. If a 100 year geezer chooses to spend $1million in tax dollars, they think that is okay.

I can speak only from what I believe. I think there are lives NOT worth living. I know I will get criticized, but when you see a crippled guy in a wheel chair machine and you know that he was born w/o arms of legs. I would have favored not saving that life. When I get old, I don’t want my life saved by extraordinary medicine and I don’t want to pay to extent the lives of those who choose differently.

We have to come to grips with this. I know it won’t be easy.

But I do NOT think it is gloomy to think of near death issues. If you believe in God, there is no reason to want to hang on to a crippled body. Move to the better place. If you don’t believe in God, what do a couple extra years matter in an eternity of nothing. So either way, we should not hang around like farts in phone booths when our time is done.

Posted by: C&J at April 23, 2011 1:10 PM
Comment #322161

jack, for someone as cold, callous, insensitive and uncaring as you….it wouldn’t be a tough call. But what someone else chooses to do and must do, in order to go on with their life and the results of their decisions, is none….I repeat, none of your business.

Posted by: jane doe at April 23, 2011 3:19 PM
Comment #322162


We can pretend to be caring by avoiding the decision, but the decision remains.

Modern medicine makes it possible to maintain in a “living” state someone who could not be alive in any other time.

Remember the controversy around Terri Schiavo. Which side were you on?

You are right that choices are none of my/our business. But at some point someone will need to decide how much money we will spend on those last days.

Interestingly, I am taking a mostly Democratic view on this one and you are going “right to life”.

As for “cold, callous, insensitive and uncaring as you” I have had to make tough call that influenced important issues tht evidently you have not. I called them moral and courageous, but those who do not possess the courage or the morality, those who shirk their duties and avoid doing anything, call them cold etc…

Posted by: C&J at April 23, 2011 3:31 PM
Comment #322164


I would also say that responses like yours are why we have trouble grappling with hard issues. You assume lots of things you know nothing about. It is easy, although morally dishonest and intellectually lazy to make ad-hominem attacks against anybody who tries to honestly consider such issues.

Tell us the truth - what did you think about Terri Shaivo?

You know that no answer means you chose to let her die and was a defacto admission that her life was not worth living. While an affirmative answer means you keep her in a permanent vegetative state.

Posted by: C&J at April 23, 2011 3:39 PM
Comment #322167

I alone, had to make the decision to remove life support from my daughter……she was my only child.
Don’t try to tell me I don’t understand!!

Posted by: jane doe at April 23, 2011 5:35 PM
Comment #322168


Then you made that decision. Why do you pretend such decisions cannot be made?

Posted by: C&J at April 23, 2011 5:50 PM
Comment #322171

C&J, The question should be why does it take $1million to save a preemie, or to treat a cancer for a short amount of time.

The issue of when to stop the extraordinary measures should be the decision of the individual,not the insurance company or the family members left behind.

“Modern medicine makes it possible to maintain in a “living” state someone who could not be alive in any other time.”

Which is a good thing. Sometimes when there is something to be gained by artificially keeping one alive it is a very good thing. When it is used to just prolong the inevitable it seems to be a money generating machine for the hospital.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 23, 2011 7:53 PM
Comment #322172


You can ask the premature baby, but you won’t get an answer. The same goes for people in vegetative states. Where did you stand on the Shaivo case?

I read about a woman who feared Alzheimer.She said she kept a bottle of poison in her pantry with a note that said, “If you don’t know what this is, take it”

We cannot avoid this decision forever. I don’t think I am willing to spend $1 million to maintain my own life for an additional couple of months. I am unwilling to spend that for others too.

Everybody dies. Fighting for a couple of extra months is not worth it. That is where we spend most of the money.

Posted by: C&J at April 23, 2011 8:05 PM
Comment #322173


I do apologize if I made you relive such a moment. I tried to imagine it, but I really cannot.

Posted by: C&J at April 23, 2011 8:06 PM
Comment #322177

“Where did you stand on the Shaivo case?”

If it were me in her state I would want my spouse to end it. In her case the husband did the right thing. The parents were wrong. Although I feel for the parents and what they had to watch happen to their daughter it was for the best,IMHO.

“Everybody dies. Fighting for a couple of extra months is not worth it. That is where we spend most of the money.”

I think we are agreeing on this issue, C&J. Dick Lamm was right then and I agree with you now on the elderly. The younger ones deserve a chance up to the point of remaining on life support for no other reason than to sooth the family, as far as Medicare/Medicaid is concerned.

The only point I make is why is the cost at the end so high. Are we being fed the rarest of precious metals by machines made of gold?

Posted by: j2t2 at April 23, 2011 9:43 PM
Comment #322182


I think the prices are high for a variety of reasons. Lots of waste, lots of lawyers. We give too much care.

In Europe, they don’t have so many tests and services. That is what needs to happen if we got a national health service.

We also need to push lifestyle changes. People who ruin their bodies with drugs and booze might deserve different treatment, especially if their behavior doesn’t look like it will change.

It is not an easy thing. Our neighbors used to have to take all sorts of drugs and were always sick. Then, as a couple, the worked on losing weight and getting in better condition. Now they have to take almost no drugs and many of their medical problems went away. I was amazed.

People with bad habits should be encouraged to change and if they don’t maybe there should be differing treatment.

Posted by: C&J at April 24, 2011 12:37 AM
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